Less is more
Lower operating expense is an important reason to buy an electric car compared to a gas powered car. If this factor is important to you, it makes sense to consider the one that has the lowest cost of ownership. This year, it is the 2018 Nissan LEAF.
Kelley Blue Book (KBB) annually selects vehicles with the lowest ownership costs over their first five years of life. Operating costs such as fuel, maintenance, repairs, and insurance are taken into account. But also considered are other ownership costs such as financing and depreciation.
I’ll spare you the drama and tell you up front that the three lowest cost of ownership electric cars for 2018 are LEAF, Chevrolet Bolt, and BMW i3. There are some significant differences among the three though. You might still choose Bolt or i3 for reasons beyond cost of ownership.
2018 Nissan LEAF
LEAF costs $38,258 to drive over its first five years. More potential owners will probably compare LEAF to Bolt than to the i3, so I’ll look at some differences between these two.
LEAF gets its lower cost to own advantage primarily by having a lower price. Entry price points of LEAF to Bolt are over $6,000 apart. Of course, what you get with the Chevy is 88 miles of additional range for your money. Automatic Emergency Braking, standard on the LEAF, is optional on the Bolt upper Premier trim level. Nissan also offers ProPILOT assist driver assistance technology and available Intelligent Cruise Control. Neither are available on the Bolt.
2018 Chevrolet Bolt
Bolt runs $46,286 over its first five years. The biggest part of that disadvantage to the LEAF is the higher base MSRP. As already mentioned, the big draw of the Chevy is the additional range, but if its range that you won’t typically use, it may prove to be an unneeded expense. The Bolt does offer features not found on the LEAF though. First, there is a 10 inch touchscreen display compared to the 7 inch display in the LEAF. Both offer one-pedal driving – in the Bolt it’s called Low mode, and LEAF offers e-Pedal. Both will provide additional regenerative capacity and quicker slowing but the Bolt has a paddle behind the steering wheel to add just a touch more when you want it. Bolt has a shorter wheelbase, which can make for a choppier ride around town and some owners have complained about seat comfort.
2018 BMW i3
The BMW runs significantly more to own over the first five years – $55,690. It costs more to buy – $44,450 and more to finance, which are the single biggest contributing factors to the cost difference. BMW does bring something to the table not found on either of the other two – a range extending model. With an electric only range of 114 miles, BMW offers an onboard gas engine to serve as a generator to extend the range to 180 miles. But if range is the real issue, for less money you could just buy the Bolt to begin with. But you wouldn’t have the cool badge on the hood. Surprisingly, of the three, it’s not the BMW with the most horsepower. It’s the Bolt. i3 – 170 HP. Bolt – 200 HP. LEAF – 147 HP. That said, you’re probably not buying any of these to go street racing.
There are many more EVs to choose from than ever before. Still, an EV is not right for everyone. But if you fall into the EV sweet spot where you have another car that you can use for long trips, here are three EVs worth considering.